Tulane University in New Orleans, where I was a professor for twenty years, renewed its commitment to community service following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.   Wind and water reminded university scholars of the frailty of life, even for powerful institutions, and although research continued to be important, service and “practical” applications became more highly valued than previously.

Tulane has always had its share of bright, dedicated young people looking for a career of service to others, but prior to Katrina, choosing the university as a place to hone one’s altruism was probably less common than the lure of the French Quarter. Today, more than a decade later, the post-Katrina commitment to service is a hallmark of Tulane’s students. An example reported in the February 23, 2015 edition of New Wave, Tulane University’s online news, is TUSTEP (Tulane University Service-Dog Training and Education Program) which partners with Canine Companions for Independence. TUSTEP’s student volunteers teach future service dogs good manners and simple commands that will be useful in their eventual jobs.  The dogs accompany their student-handlers almost everywhere, including class, the library and jobs.

As a dog lover, I have always admired people who give early training and affection to puppies and dogs that, by definition, will ultimately belong to another.   Even knowing ahead of time that the dog must move on in order to fulfill an important need, parting must be bittersweet. Recently, TUSTEP students said farewell to Kipper, the first dog trained on the Uptown campus. TUSTEP founder Adam Kline took Kipper to Orlando, Florida, where the dog will receive further training. Perhaps what makes the inevitable parting of dog and student easier is that a new “litter” soon will replace them. Four new dogs recently arrived on campus, bringing a smile to their handlers and passersby.

Kudos for this small, but significant, program that brings happiness to all involved — two-legged and four.

For more information and a video, visit http://tulane.edu/news/newwave/022015_service-dog_puppy-raising_video.cfm

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  1. That’s it? Where’s the last frame where the dog slams into you as you both share a hollywood roll, arm in leg, lgahuing and yelping, down the slope?

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